Daniel Craig, Cowboys & Aliens
Credit: Zade Rosenthal

While it doesn’t change the fact that it performed a bit below expectations this weekend, at least Cowboys & Aliens won’t have to say it was defeated by some smurfin’ cartoon critters. According to actual figures released Monday afternoon, Cowboys & Aliens won the weekend with $36.4 million, while The Smurfs followed closely behind with $35.6 million. A mere $800,000 separated the two movies from one another — a result so close that a winner couldn’t be declared until today.

Most box-office prognosticators (myself included) thought Cowboys & Aliens — a $163 million Western/sci-fi hybrid directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), produced by Steven Spielberg, and starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford — would easily win the weekend with an opening of at least $40 million. But Universal’s high-concept film had trouble attracting younger moviegoers and was tarnished by mediocre reviews. The Smurfs, on the other hand, debuted stronger than anticipated. I predicted a $32 million opening, while many in the industry thought it wouldn’t crack $30 million. Sony did a commendable job marketing the $110 million movie to both children unfamiliar with The Smurfs and to adults who grew up with the comics or TV show.

For more analysis on this weekend’s box office, check out yesterday’s box office report.